Long overdue, this is Part II of my ride report.
The broad outlines of this ride came to me as I looked at the location of my friends’ house on a map. This would be a circumnavigation, via two major urban bridges, of the Carquinez strait — a watery narrows that California’s two mighty rivers, the Sacramento and San Joaquin, must pass through before emptying into the San Pablo and San Francisco Bays.
Port Costa — surrounded by rolling green hills — was the perfect launching point for such a ride.
Miles 0-10: From Port Costa to Martinez bicyclists can use the old highway, which is closed to car traffic. I passed the occasional hiker and was treated to rolling hills, scenic views of the water and the old rail road tracks, and a final, satisfying descent into the town of Martinez. I breezed in feeling energized and thus decided to go looking for the John Muir historic monument rather than sticking to the course I had initially set. (Read about that side trip here).
Miles 11-20: The second third of the trip took me from downtown Martinez across the Benicia Bridge to Southampton Bay and the Benicia state recreation area. This was easy, pleasant riding never too far from the shoreline. I rode past past marinas filled with expensive yachts and late Sunday afternoon picnic goers. I stopped frequently to make photographs and found my way using a variety of bike paths and shared roads. I was never entirely sure if I was on my planned route, but I wasn’t too concerned as “Bike Route” signs were plentiful and all roads seemed to propel me toward the state park.
Miles 21-30: During the last third of the trip, after leaving Benicia state park, the route finding and bicycle riding became more difficult. The bike lane ended and I had to navigate a number of challenges:
- first was a curving, shoulder-less off-ramp leading up to Columbus Parkway and a narrow two-way bridge near the intersection with I-780.
- route finding became more difficult since I screwed up my Google bicycling directions by accidentally printing a mirror image of the route (starting at point B going to A, rather than A to B). As a result, I had to read the directions backwards (from the bottom of the page up) and calculate whether left and right turns were also reversed. It was a mess.
- a critical street sign was missing and as I pedaled up what seemed the biggest incline of the trip I was unsure if was even on the correct road (later I confirmed I was on Benicia Rd.).
- in order to find the approach to the bike/ped path of the Carquinez Bridge I had to cross three major interstates (I-780 2 times and I-80 once) and pedal through a few gritty urban neighborhoods (riding in normal street clothes, rather then a skintight lycra outfit, never felt more right).
- since I began my journey after 4:30pm the onset of darkness was a real issue (I don’t have a lighting system on this bike).
So, I pedaled hard the last 6-7 miles, crossed the Carquinez Bridge as the sun dropped below the horizon, and managed to arrive back in Port Costa just after 8pm.
My friends had taken a twilight stroll and were not yet home. I was a little tired and rather hungry (since I didn’t eat anything on route), but took solace in the satisfaction of having just circumnavigated the Carquinez Strait.